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Parents Outraged After Record Number of Gifted and Talented Rejections

By Amy Zimmer | June 19, 2013 5:15pm
 The acceptance rate for getting into a citywide G&T program was as low as 8.4 percent for many eligible students.
The acceptance rate for getting into a citywide G&T program was as low as 8.4 percent for many eligible students.
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NEW YORK CITY  — The odds of a landing a kindergarten seat in one of the much-coveted five elite citywide gifted and talented programs are lower than getting into some Ivy League institutions — especially if you're not a sibling of a student already in the program.

Aracely Fan's 4-year-old daughter scored in the 99th percentile but was offered a district program in Carroll Gardens rather than a citywide spot.

"We probably won't take it, since the program is not accelerated, and the curriculum seems be weaker than our zoned school," said Fan, who is moving this week from Harelm to Park Slope.

The Department of Education sent out G & T acceptance letters last week, offering 72 of 304 slots — or 23.7 percent — to siblings of current students scoring in the 97th percentile or above.

That left some 2,755 eligible kids vying for the remaining 232 kindergarten spots, which means offers were sent to 8.4 percent of the rest of the applicants, according to DOE data.  

Some Ivies are easier to get into: Cornell had a 15.2 acceptance rate this year, the University of Pennsylvania had a 12.1 percent acceptance rate, Dartmouth had a 10 percent rate and Brown had a 9.16 percent. (Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton had lower rates with 5.8 percent, 6.7 percent, 6.9 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.)

It was a bitter pill to swallow for several parents of pre-kindergarteners with perfect scores, who may have been passed aside for lower-scoring siblings.  Four parents had filed a lawsuit against the city over its sibling policy, saying that it discriminated against families with one child, but a judge OK'ed the DOE to send out the acceptance letters.

"It's very unfair with the sibling priority," said Debbie Singh, whose daughter got a perfect score and landed her third choice citywide school, TAG Young Scholars in East Harlem.

"Considering a lot of people didn’t get a placement, I'm happy," said Singh, who is now planning to move from Ozone Park to Long Island City to be closer to the school.

Despite adding G & T seats with 10 more kindergarten sections across the city, the number of offers made to families vying for district-wide and citywide programs dropped sharply from 82.7 percent last year to 68.5 percent.

Fewer offers were made, but school officials said these offers were "more meaningful" and were expected to result in higher rates of families accepting the offers.

The DOE eliminated its practice of guaranteeing a G&T district seat for every student, which in past years resulted in families being offered seats they declined for geographic or other reasons, officials explained.

Last year, for example, only 61.9 percent of incoming kindergarteners accepted their offers, according to DOE data, so this year school officials said they did not make offers that families would likely not take.

"We try to make offers to as many families as possible, but our Gifted & Talented programs are just one part of the wide menu of school options we’ve created for parents," a DOE spokesman said. "A great neighborhood school or program can deliver instruction that is just as good as any Gifted & Talented program."

Even though the city implemented a new, harder test this year that saw more than 600 fewer pre-kindergarteners taking the test, a record 5,390 students scored high enough to qualify for kindergarten seats. It was roughly 430 more than last year.

The G&T process was riddled with problems this year, including two scoring errors admitted by testing giant Pearson and 400 lost exams.

There were other snafus. The DOE initially announced it would discontinue the sibling priority policy and that it would use composite scores for placement — meaning that those with perfect scores would get slots first, followed by those with one error and so on. Then the department reversed course.

Parents have until June 28 to accept offers or will forfeit their kid's seat.

New kindergarten sections were added in Manhattan to P.S. 15 in the East Village and P.S. 111 in Hells Kitchen, and in Brooklyn at P.S. 93 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, P.S. 316 in Prospect Heights, P.S. 149 in East New York, and Borough Park's P.S. 164. Queens will be getting G&T kindergarten classes at P.S. 68 in Ridgewood, P.S. 188 in Bayside and P.S. 121 in South Ozone Park. Staten Island is getting a new program at P.S. 53 and another section at P.S. 60.